Bordeaux Plein Air Paintings

Here are a few of my plein air paintings from last week in Bordeaux, France.

Plein air painting of a park in Bordeaux, France.

Statues and Circus Trucks. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Bordeaux.

Tram and Scaffold, Bordeaux. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

It’s a very beautiful city. My paintings don’t really do the place justice (and it wasn’t the best time of year for colors). They say it’s like a little Paris and it does have that feel to it, while still seeming small and manageable. It would probably be a great place to live as the climate is mild for Europe, and the food and wine are so amazing.

Plein air painting of a sailboat at Cap Ferret, France.

Sailboat, Cap Ferret. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of evening in Bordeaux, France.

Evening Strollers, Bordeaux. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

And below is a small sketch of Porta San Frediano in Florence from our trip back. I lived in San Frediano for ten years and always wanted to paint the neighborhood more.

Oil painting of the Porta San Frediano in Florence, Italy.

Porta San Frediano. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Apologies for not painting out the clip holes in the skies. It’s been a busy few weeks.

Postcards from Italy

Below are some paintings from my week here in Italy. I was supposed to be on the lakes up North this week, but I got rained out. Here in Tuscany the weather is a bit more summery, even if there is an early Autumn chill in the air (and we’ve had a few days of rain here too).

Plein air oil painting of San Gimignano.

San Gimignano. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I lived in Florence for 20 years and never painted the classic, postcard view of the Duomo. I also spent my summers about 20 minutes away from San Gimignano and never painted the towers. I thought this year I would get them both out of the way.

Plein air landscape painting of the Duomo of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo.

Tourist Stands, Piazzale Michelangelo. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Most of the time I stayed in the countryside working on this larger piece:

Plein air painting of a mulberry tree in Tuscany.

The Mulberry Tree. 90 x 110 cm, oil on linen.

I’m hoping for one more day of sun to finish, but it’s not looking good.

Here is the sketch:

Study for a large painting of a mulberry tree in Tuscany.

Mulberry Tree Study. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

And in the evenings I painted a series of sunsets from the house:

Plein air landscape painting of sunset in Tuscany.

Torricella Sunset #1. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of a Tuscan sunset.

Torricella Sunset #2. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of a sunset near Noce, Tavarnelle val di Pesa.

Torricella Sunset #3. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

New Florence Academy of Art Website

Florence Academy of Art's new website.
The last few years I was in Florence I taught landscape painting at the Florence Academy of Art. They have recently updated their website to reflect better their professional approach to teaching painting and sculpture.

Their alumni gallery is especially impressive for the sheer number of professional working realist painters and teachers they have produced in their short history, as well as the high quality of the art produced and the great variety of style in the works. ‘Academic’ art is sometimes criticized for producing painters and sculptors whose work all looks the same. Looking through the work displayed on the FAA site, the director Daniel Graves and his faculty have clearly done an excellent job of allowing individualism to flourish, while at the same time giving all their students the proper tools to realize their vision.

The Florence Academy’s drawing, painting and sculpture departments are all excellent and their écorché program (originally set-up by Andy Ameral who currently teaches at the Golden Gate Atelier in the SF Bay Area) is something I regret not having taken advantage of while I still lived in Florence. The FAA is also alone among the schools in Florence in having a number of gallery contacts, so the best students are funneled into the gallery system and avoid the tedious process of getting someone to show their work.

Backlit Tuscany

Below are some paintings from a very short (weekend) trip to Tuscany. Since I had so little time to paint I chose only subjects that were backlit, i.e. had the sun behind them.

Plein air painting of Piazza Santo Spirito.

Market Stall in Piazza Santo Spirito. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

It’s probably different for every painter, but I find I can work much faster and get better results when painting towards the sun. It becomes much more about drawing and values. Frontlit subjects require a painter to capture every small nuance in hue and chroma which, for me, takes much longer.

Plein air sketch of Montisi.

Burning Leaves, Montisi. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air cityscape oil painting of Piazza del Carmine, Florence.

Piazza del Carmine. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Paesaggio in olio, pescatori sul riva dell'Arno.

Fishermen on the Banks of the Arno. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

It’s interesting to look at historic landscape painters and their preference for lighting in their views. For example, the Spanish painter Carlos de Haes went for the backlit subject in many of his plein air and studio landscapes.

Carlos de Haes -La Torre de Douarnenez

Carlos de Haes -La Torre de Douarnenez

Carlos de Haes - Picos de Europa.

Carlos de Haes – Picos de Europa.

And Camille Corot’s best works are usually backlit:

Camille Corot - The Bridge at Narni.

Camille Corot – The Bridge at Narni.

As are Dennis Miller Bunker’s:

Dennis Miller Bunker - Brittany Town Morning.

Dennis Miller Bunker – Brittany Town Morning.

The French Impressionists were also big on the midday backlit view, which is surprising since their draftsmanship wasn’t the best and they seemed so focused on color.

Claude Monet - The Cliff of Aval.

Claude Monet – The Cliff of Aval.

On the other hand, the Spanish painters Joaquín Sorolla and Martín Rico y Ortega seemed to love the bright whites, dark skies, and strong hues of frontlit subjects in Spain and Italy. And the Italian painter Rubens Santoro painted some amazing sunlight-filled views of Italy which are also often frontlit.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - The Return of the Catch, Valencia Beach

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida – The Return of the Catch, Valencia Beach

Martín Rico y Ortega - View of Paris from the Trocadero.

Martín Rico y Ortega – View of Paris from the Trocadero.

Rubens Santoro - On the Mediterranean Coast

Rubens Santoro – On the Mediterranean Coast

Isaac Levitan’s best paintings are usually frontlit (or overcast).

Isaac Levitan - March.

Isaac Levitan – March.

And finally, on the other side of the world, the great Australian painter Arthur Streeton also used the frontlit view often to show the heat of the Australian summers.

Arthur Streeton - Sunlight.

Arthur Streeton – Sunlight.

Obviously, all of these great artists tried to capture a wide variety of light effects in their paintings. Still, looking over a single painter’s oeuvre, it’s fun to try to discern a pattern. Some of the other great landscape painters I (briefly) researched for this post were John Singer Sargent, Telemaco Signorini, and Edward Seago, but I wasn’t able to see any preference in their work (even Sorolla was a bit of a stretch).

Nymphs in Arcadia

Since my current larger projects are taking a while I thought I would rehash some older work. This is part of a series of paintings I did in 2008 of the small Piaggio Apini or ‘worker bees’ (as opposed to the Vespas or ‘wasps’ made by the same company). They were used by the artisans and tradesmen in Florence until they were banned recently by the new mayor.

Piaggio Ape in Florence

Ape, Via del Campuccio (?). 25 x 35 cm, oil on linen.

Oil painting of graffiti in Florence, Italy

Amore Ti Amo. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Since they move pretty quickly and I couldn’t always stand in the road with my easel, some were done from photographs. This was the only time I ever tried working solely from photography and I decided it wasn’t for me. I spent too much time training my eyes to work from life.

Dipinto di un Ape Piaggio a Firenze

Apino, Via Maffia (#2). 40 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Ironically the ones I painted from life often look more photographic than the ones painted from photos. I think it’s because one has so much more information available when working on site.

Dipinto di un Ape Piaggio

Nymph in Arcadia. 40 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

The title of the post comes from a show I had in 2008 in a local cafe showing these little sketches. They say selling art in Florence is like selling ice in Antarctica, but these proved surprisingly popular.

Dipinto del trippaio di Sant'ambrogio

I’Trippaio di Sant’Ambrogio. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air sketch of a Piaggio Ape in the Tuscan countryside.

June Rent. 25 x 40 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Via Toscanella, Florence.

Via Toscanella. 25 x 40 cm, oil on linen.

Oil painting of a delivery truck in Florence.

Via Maggio. 30 x 40 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of a Piaggio Ape near San Gimigniano

Apino, San Gimigniano. 20 x 30 cm, oil on linen.

Plein air painting of Via Maffia, Flrorence

Via Maffia (#1). 30 x 20 cm, oil on linen. 

Oil painting of the Vivaio Torrigiani delivery truck.

Vivaio Torrigiani. 20 x 25 cm, oil on linen.